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Pittsburgh is a city of about 350,000 in Southwestern Pennsylvania, although the population of its metropolitan area is about 2.4 million. It is situated at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which meet to form the Ohio River. Pittsburgh's triangular shape and steep hills have resulted in an unusual city design, a hodge-podge of neighborhood "pockets" with diverse ethnic and architectural heritage.
Like many cities, Pittsburgh is divided into districts:
This is not an exhaustive list; there are numerous others. For a complete list of districts and neighborhoods here is a list published by the City of Pittsburgh that includes a map of each which can be printed out.
Some of these areas are ethnic neighborhoods, such as Polish Hill, and Squirrel Hill (a largely Jewish neighborhood). Others began as independent cities; for instance the North Side, on the northern shore of the Allegheny river, began as the city of Allegheny and the South Side, on the southern shore of the Monongehela river, was the city of Birmingham, but now they are incorporated into the city proper.
Pittsburgh has a rich history and for its size, an unusual array of cultural treasures. The main reason for this abundance is the wealth that was generated when Pittsburgh was the hub of the steelmaking industry. During the US Civil War the city was known as "the armory of the Union" and this began a sharp escalation of industry, particularly iron and steel, but also glass. For a very brief but interesting history of this unique city see this article published by the Society of American Archivists.
Andrew Carnegie lived in Pittsburgh (in the then city of Allegheny as a matter of fact, now the North Side) where he began the Carnegie Steel Company which grew to be the largest steel company in the world. It eventually became USS, the United States Steel Corporation which, when first formed at the turn of the 20th century, was the largest corporation of any kind in the world, and it made Carnegie the richest man in the world, the "Bill Gates of his time" so to say. It is still headquartered in Pittsburgh, as is Alcoa - the largest aluminum company in the world. Another notable steel industrialist was John Hartwell Hillman Jr., who built Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical. A number of other Fortune 100 companies once called Pittsburgh their headquarters as well. All this affluence helped fund a world class museum, theaters, universities, and of course the Carnegie Library, which has branches in cities all across America.
At the height of this industrialization Pittsburgh was notorious for its severe air pollution. One journalist descriptively dubbed it, "hell with the lid off". White collar workers came home in the evening as brown collar workers. Frank Lloyd Wright, the noted architect, when once asked what to do to fix Pittsburgh, famously replied, and with characteristic frankness, "Raze it." Today it is a model of cleanliness due to the remediation of the polluting industrial plants in the late 1950s, and also, unfortunately, due to the gradual migration of the mills to other cities and countries. There is now only one operating steel mill in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Steel's venerable Edgar Thompson Works, now a USS, state-of-the-art integrated steel mill.
Like most other old cities, it was the rivers that made the city. Pittsburgh claims to have more bridges than any city in the world (only counting bridges over 20 feet, 440 or so within Pittsburgh, and over 1700 in the county at all heighths) many of quite unusual design - steel bridges, of course. The many locks and dams on the rivers still support extensive barge traffic. Point State Park, or simply, "The Point", so named because it is the delta where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River, was the site of Fort Pitt, once known as Fort Duquesne and, as one might expect with a name change like that, a famous battle was fought there in pre-Revolutionary times.
The demand for labor, so-called "millhunks", was so strong in the late 1800s that immigrants flocked to Pittsburgh from all over Europe, but mostly Central and Eastern Europe, especially: Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Lithuania, Serbia and Croatia. All these countries provided laborers for the mills, and later many engineers immigrated from these countries as well. They brought their families, their languages, their churches - along with their drinking traditions too. Pittsburgh is known as "a shot and a beer" town. Steeples and the bright copper onion-dome churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition dot the old parts of town. Unusual for the area, there is also a beautiful Hindu temple as well, built later for the many engineers and doctors from India that came to the city during the second half of the 20th century. Pittsburgh truly was a great melting pot, and the tradition continues: it is home to thousands of foreign students that attend the many universities in the city, including, most notably, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Today these schools are among the city's largest employers.
Pittsburgh is unique in other ways, too. It had the first Big Mac, the first pull-tab on drink cans, the first commercial radio station (KDKA, still operating), the first US public television station (WQED, still operating), the first gas station (1912, bit the dust), and the first baseball stadium (Forbes Field 1909). Check out these other Famous Pittsburgh Firsts listed by the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau. Many of them will surprise you. Most recently (2006), Pittsburgh is the first city in the United States to offer WiFi coverage.
Pittsburgh International Airport